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28 February 2011 @ 02:38 pm
Fic: One Year Later  
So ages ago, fringeverse had a challenge to write a fic set exactly one year after the events of "Marionette."  Ages ago, seriously.  I have been patiently waiting for the voting to be over so I can post, and the time has finally come!

Title: One Year Later (creative, I know)
Specs: Fringe, Olivia, spoilers through "Marionette," 2500 words
Rating: PG

Olivia tipped her spoon over and let the oatmeal plop back down into the bowl. They’d run out of sugar four days ago, and peanut butter a day before that. Plain oatmeal. Not even a little cinnamon to give it some flavor. A part of her brain that Olivia sometimes thought of as Little Olive wanted to take the oatmeal and dump it on someone’s head - the who didn’t really matter. But she rarely let Little Olive decide anything; the part of her brain that was Agent Olivia Dunham (though of course she wasn’t that anymore, haha isn’t that a good joke) almost always had the final say. That part made her stop playing in her food and eat her oatmeal like a good girl.

The lights flickered, which they did on a regular basis, so Olivia didn’t even register it at first. Then there was a hum, almost subliminal, and everyone’s heads perked up and looked around. The way that instinctual reactions could so quickly take over - all the artifice of civilization slipping away, revealing men and women not so different from their ancestors in the caves - sometimes spooked Olivia. She broke out in goosebumps at seeing everyone’s blank faces, eyes pointed this way and that, listening for a sound that wasn’t there.

Then there was sound, lots of sound, her ears filled with sound. Everything was shaking. The oatmeal bowl skittered across the table and fell on the floor. No time for Little Olive to rejoice; everyone - including Olivia - was scrambling under the table and to the bunks next door, but the shaking and rumbles were already over. Heartbeats of silence. The lights went out. A gasp, a suppressed scream. The lights came back on.

“What happened?” Olivia shouted, up and running. Down the hall, past the daisy-chained car batteries and the bundles of wires. Over the threshold and into the command center, such as it was. Astrid was peering at fuzzy displays. The one laptop they had left was on the floor, the screen cracked. “What was it?”

“Hang on,” Astrid murmured, not really paying attention to Olivia, or to Broyles, who had just joined her from behind. There were a couple of civvies out in the hall, bleating questions out like nervous sheep, and Broyles thankfully barked out a few harsh words to make them leave. Olivia tried to be patient, tamp down the anger and fear and hopelessness that bubbled up inside her, and just wait.

Finally Astrid slumped down in the folding chair behind her, which was held together with duct tape and an old Ace bandage. It creaked and groaned but it did not collapse. Olivia never thought she would empathize with a folding chair, but a lot of things were happening she never thought would come to pass.

“Boston,” Astrid said, rubbing her eyes. Olivia could suddenly see what Astrid would look like as an old woman, and she hugged herself.

“What about Boston?” Broyles, still behind Olivia, and she wanted to slap him. It was obvious, wasn’t it?

“Boston is gone.”

***

The bunker wasn’t very big, but it still took Olivia longer than she wanted to find everything she might need. She thought about bringing weapons but quickly discarded the idea; they wouldn’t do any good. She settled on a canteen; an old jar she washed out and filled with a few precious drops of bleach - she’d likely need to fill her canteen at some point, and there certainly wasn’t much clean water between here and the remains of the city; a couple handfuls of oats; Kyle’s good leather jacket (she left him a note); and something she’d carefully hidden the first few days they’d sought refuge here. Olivia, Broyles and Astrid, and the dozen or so civilians they’d picked up along the way, like a snowball growing larger as it rolls down hill. Linda had once been a secretary at this high school, back when it was still open, and remembered that the basement had been fitted out as a fall-out shelter during the Cold War. Old, dusty, and chilly - but it had kept them alive for two weeks.

And there were all kinds of delightful little nooks and crannies, here and there, and Olivia went to one of them now. Before this was even a fall-out shelter, she thought this room might have been a band or choir room; the floor was made up of three big risers. At the center of the bottom one, a heating duct. She pulled aside the metal grate and reached her hand in. A moment of panic when she only felt cobwebs, but then her hand closed around the plastic. She pulled the bag out. A moment to touch it, the colors too bright - two weeks in this place and she already felt like she’d never seen the color red before - and then Olivia tucked it into the leather jacket.

Down the halls, past the bunks and the living room and the horrible, backed-up toilets. She moved quickly and quietly, but Broyles could be otherworldly when it came to knowing when someone was up to something, and he stopped her just before the stairs.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“You know,” she said, eyes level. He did know, she could see that, but he was going to make her say it anyway. “I have to talk to him.”

“There’s no one left for you to talk to.”

“I can’t believe that. I won’t.”

“Dunham,” Broyles said, that brusque voice she was used to, as though he were still her superior, as though she still had to listen to him. He must have realized it, too, because his eyes softened, and he put a hand on her shoulder. “Olivia. Would you want there to be any part of him left? After all he’s done, would you want Peter, our Peter, to still be alive?”

The truth was, she didn’t. She’d rather believe him dead and gone, or so utterly changed that their Peter - her Peter - no longer existed. She’d rather believe that, but she didn’t.

“Keep them safe,” she said, turning and starting up the stairs.

“Olivia!” She didn’t answer, and with her own name ringing in her ears, Olivia opened the doors at the top of the stairs and left.

***

It was cold outside, and there were pretty little flakes drifting through the air. Not snow, though. This was the powdered, ashy remains of Boston falling all around her. The sky to the east was just beginning to brighten, but the light of the sun would never fully break through the cloud before her, a livid pink bruise that hung over what had been her home. How many people had still been there, huddling in their houses, trying the radio and the TV every night in vain? How many had heard the big truck’s wheels as it had driven through the city, carrying the Device, and had run outside, thinking it brought hope, thinking it brought rescue, not knowing it brought only destruction?

Olivia shivered, pulled the leather jacket tight. The plastic of the bag crinkled against her ribs. Despite what she was walking toward (her own death; she had no illusions on that score), despite the privations of the last few weeks, despite the chill in the air and the little flakes of Boston landing on her head and shoulders and face, Olivia felt exhilarated. Full of energy. She wasn’t meant to hide and cower; she was meant to do just this - walk toward danger with her head held high, ready to do whatever she needed to fix the world.

The empty highway stretched in front of her, and she expected to have to walk through most of the day, if not well into the night, before she reached the suburbs of the ruined city, but they picked her up around noon.

***

“You’re a fool,” Walter said, not even deigning to look her way. Not her Walter; this was the other Walter, the one whom Peter had sometimes referred to as Walternate. He was sitting at a massive oak desk that had clearly not come from this house; it was too big for the room. Olivia thought of Nazi soldiers who would set up shop in different little villages and towns along the front, and the way they would try and make everything look just as though they were still in the heart of Berlin. The ostentatious ridiculousness of it all. But there was nothing ridiculous about Walternate’s eyes when they finally turned to hers. Ice cold, ruthless. This was the man who had tried to hollow her out and put a different Olivia inside. She made herself hold his gaze, and kept her spine straight, but inside she felt only roiling panic.

“Probably,” she allowed, and then Olivia did something she’d only done once before, when Walternate and his army had crossed over and taken Peter. She pulled on the other Olivia like a cape, letting the memories of her hard and callous nature settle over her shoulders. She shifted her weight a little, feeling a little smug; Walternate would not have expected her to do this, and he was a man who did not like it when things did not proceed just as he anticipated.

“Why did you come?” he asked, leaning back in his overstuffed chair.

“I want to see him.”

Walternate laughed, a short bark of a laugh. It sounded so much like the laugh Walter - her Walter - would let out when he discovered something interesting in the lab that Olivia felt her eyes prick with tears. But she blinked once, twice, and the tears were gone as though they’d never been there. She kept her eyes on his, kept her shoulders back, kept herself still and calm. Walternate stared at her, his expression inscrutable. Then he nodded to one of the soldiers standing at attention along the perimeter of the room.

“When she’s finished, kill her,” he called out as she was led from his office. Olivia only nodded; she expected nothing less.

***

She was taken outside the building that used to be a community rec center, down a narrow one-land road. There was a soccer field across the street, and Olivia stared as they passed. This was the closest she had been to the thing, and she broke out in a cold sweat. A truck, the bed covered with tightly roped tarps, but what it carried could be intuited by the shapes it made. The Device. Now that Boston was gone, it had claimed an even dozen cities. And it only worked because Peter made it so.

Into a house, well-guarded. Down to the basement. The hum of a generator out back was comforting; otherwise silence reigned supreme. She was allowed to enter the room alone, but the soldier who had accompanied her waited just outside the door. She had no doubt that if she made the slightest move toward Peter she would be killed instantly. It would do no good for the man who powered the Device to be harmed before the war was complete.

He was sitting in an armchair, a book in his lap. But the book was closed, and his eyes stared at a spot on the carpet. Olivia couldn’t move, couldn’t think. Finally she squatted down on her ankles a few feet in front of his chair and waited, but he never registered her presence.

“Peter?” she said, and slowly, slowly, his eyes drifted up. No recognition there; just the vapid, emotionless stare of a cow. Olivia waited. “Peter, it’s me.” Nothing.

She reached into her leather jacket, aware of the soldier’s readiness behind her, and slowly pulled out the plastic bag. She held it out. “I found this, when we were fleeing the city. We went into a gas station, scavenged what we could. There wasn’t much left, but I found this on a rack by the counter. I took them for Walter. Is Walter here?” Even though his face didn’t move at all, she still imagined that he was smiling faintly at her. It was not a pleasant smile, but one full of derision and scorn.

Olivia leaned forward and placed the bag of Red Vines on the floor between them. “You can have them.” Peter didn’t look at the candy. His eyes stayed locked on hers, that faint not-really-there smile still on his lips.

“It’s been hard, keeping track of what day it is,” Olivia said, sitting down completely now. “All the things we take for granted - clocks, computers, even being able to walk outside and see if the sun’s come up – they’re gone now. But I’ve done it. You know what day it is today? Today’s December 12th. Not even two weeks till Christmas. Does that day mean anything to you, Peter? December 12th?” His eyes, not even blinking. Was he really there in front of her? Was any of this real? Olivia didn’t know anymore.

“It was a year ago that I told you that I couldn’t be with you. I was hurt, and scared, and I still didn’t feel like myself. Now I think that I had no idea what being hurt or scared even meant. We could have had a year together, Peter. It wouldn’t have been perfect, but we could have been together. I miss all the things that we never had.”

Silence. She couldn’t even hear the sound of his breathing.

“Get up. Your time’s up.” The voice of the soldier behind her was startling, and when Olivia looked back at Peter his eyes were again fixed on the spot on the floor. Whatever might-have-been smile she thought she’d seen was gone.

Olivia stood, and in one smooth movement took the three big steps she needed to stand in front of Peter. The soldier grabbed her and hauled her back even as she put out one hand to touch the side of Peter’s face. She was dragged from the room, but not before she saw a flash of something in Peter’s eyes, his hand grabbing the armrest, his knuckles white.

Back up the stairs, the soldier’s fingers digging into her arm. “Olivia?” she heard from the basement room. The soldier cuffed her as they exited, but still she could not wipe the smile from her face – a great big grin, to be completely honest.

“Olivia!” Peter shouted, and she thought she might hear him running up the steps, but by then she was back out in the cold air, snow that wasn’t snow still falling all around her. Another soldier detached from the perimeter guard around Peter’s house, and he helped half-drag, half-carry her back in the direction of Walternate’s lair. The sounds of a scuffle behind her. Peter’s voice, his voice, shouting her name. Olivia didn’t know what would happen next, but it no longer really mattered. She might be killed; she might be locked up; she might be tossed unceremoniously back on the highway. Still grinning, she let them take her wherever they wished.

Agent Olivia Dunham had been the one to leave the bunker and start walking, no actual plan in mind, just a vague hope that she would be able to do something, anything. But it was Little Olive who triumphed. In a world overrun with monsters, torn to pieces by an evil sorcerer, the rules of fairy tales might as well apply. After all, Sleeping Beauty had been awakened by a kiss.
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ghanima sun: oliviaghanimasun on March 1st, 2011 02:23 am (UTC)
This. Was seriously one of my favorites in that challenge. There are so many things I love about it. I wish I was better at leaving fic feedback, but that's all I got.

I would love to read about what led up to this point though!


I just saw that you got first place too. Congrats! You definitely deserved it. This fic is awesome.

Edited at 2011-03-01 02:27 am (UTC)
Shannon: fringe astridkungfuwaynewho on March 1st, 2011 02:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I had a lot of fun writing it - actually, the fact that I didn't have to worry about what led up to this point was what made it fun, LOL.
vjs2259vjs2259 on July 12th, 2011 07:57 pm (UTC)
I liked this, and coming from someone who only has the vaguest idea who these people are, you can take that as a compliment.

The colorless nature of Olivia's present with the one splash of color reminded me of Oz (the movie) and the detail presented as to the straits these people are in was at once vivid and depressing. I lived in Boston once upon a time and loved it dearly, so my heart stopped a little at Astrid's words.

Even though there was a journey-quest, and a castle guarded by a Dragon, I didn't get the fairy tale ending until it was upon me. Which is the best way really, to be surprised, and pleased, and to look back and see the path was clear all along.

Thanks for pointing me here; as I said, I probably wouldn't have read it not knowing the fandom. Glad I did.
Shannonkungfuwaynewho on July 13th, 2011 06:35 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks for the lovely review! I didn't have any expectation of you reading this when I linked to it, LOL. I'm glad you liked it. :D